Locals eye upcoming solar farms meeting

Senate Bill 52 in committee in Columbus

By Tim Colliver - tcolliver@aimmediamidwest.com

A spokesman for the grassroots organization Clinton County/Highland County Citizens Concerned About Solar Farms told The Times-Gazette that some of its members plan to attend Monday’s Palomino Solar Farm public hearing at the Highland County Fairgrounds, but are keeping an eye on Senate Bill 52.

David Gingerich, who described himself as “the most outspoken member of the group,” said it was continuing to follow the progress of Senate Bill 52, one of a pair of measures working their way through the Ohio Legislature that seeks to give local townships the right to vote on whether to allow utility-scale solar farms to come to their localities.

“We’re going to see how this bill proceeds through committee before we decide on how much of a presence we’ll have on Monday out at the fairgrounds,” Gingerich said.

Substitute Senate Bill 52 passed the Ohio Senate on June 9, and according to state Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro), the 21-page measure was on the agenda before the Public Utilities Committee and was set for discussion late Tuesday afternoon.

The prime contractor on the proposed solar generating project, Innergex, scheduled a second public information hearing when the company learned that nearly 50 owners of property adjacent to the planned complex were not notified prior to the original March 9 hearing.

One of the requirements of the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) is proper notification of adjacent property owners as part of its qualification process.

Monday’s public information meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Rabbit & Poultry Barn on the Highland County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro, with doors opening at 6 p.m. for what the company described as a “Palomino poster session.”

In a news release, Innergex said the objective of the Monday night meeting is to inform the community of the project, answer questions and gather community input.

For those unable to attend in person, the meeting will be streamed online at https://bit.ly/PalominoSolarEnergyMeeting, or can be followed on the phone by calling 844-621-3956, and then entering dial code 182 627 6257.

As previously reported, Palomino Solar, LLC is one of 10 solar panel farms that are either under or awaiting construction, or are pending approval.

According to the OPSB website:

• Palomino and National Grid Renewables’ Dodson Creek Solar Project, both located in the Lynchburg area, are currently in the preapplication stage.

• Ross County Solar, being built by National Grid Renewables southeast of Greenfield just across the Highland/Ross County line, and Invenergy’s Yellow Wood Solar Complex in Southern Clinton County, are in the pending application phase.

• RWE Renewables’ Willowbrook I and Hecate Energy’s Highland solar farms have both been approved and are awaiting construction, with both to be built in Southern Highland County. Hecate Energy has stated that it intends to begin construction on Highland Solar in August. Fayette Solar, a small (47.5-megawatt) National Grid Renewables project, is to be built in both Southern Fayette and Northeastern Highland County near Greenfield.

• Currently under construction since its May 13 groundbreaking are the Hecate Energy New Market I & II farms, and Innergex’s Hillcrest facility just across the Highland/Brown County line near Buford, which is nearing operational status.

Innergex said that it intends to file a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the Palomino project with the OPSB later this summer, and if approved, begin construction on a 200-megawatt facility in the second half of 2022.

The company hopes that Palomino will be online and generating power by the end of 2023.

With Innergex’s other Highland County-area solar facility nearing completion — the 200-megawatt Hillcrest complex near Buford — the company recently announced a collaborative effort with Southern State Community College.

The college and its foundation earlier this month announced a virtual ceremony that will establish the Hillcrest Foundation Fund, which was described as being dedicated to support education and training in the solar energy field at Southern State Community College.

A check signing ceremony will take place on Wednesday, July 7 at 11 a.m. at Southern State’s Hillsboro campus, and will be broadcast online.

Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.

Senate Bill 52 in committee in Columbus

By Tim Colliver